Jeffrey Harris, born Leeds 1932, began painting as a boy while exploring the Yorkshire Dales on a bicycle. The son of a tailor and machinist from Chapel Town, he was surrounded by the colour and pattern of his parents’ tailoring business. He studied at Leeds College of Art majoring in painting, printmaking and drawing, and cites visiting lecturer Victor Passmore as an early influence.
Jeff moved to St Ives in 1956 and in 1959 married Tasmanian born painter Gwen Leitch. Gwen was offered 7 Porthmeor Studio in 1956, which she and Jeff shared for fifteen years. Jeff befriended fellow artists Tony O’Malley, Patrick Heron, Breon O’Casey and Bernard Leach, and he was an active member of the Penwith Arts Society and a regular exhibitor at the Penwith Gallery from 1956 until 1970, while also exhibiting in London and other parts of the UK.
His early paintings are abstract and semi-figurative, drawing on the Cornish and St Ives landscapes, usually in oil on masonite or canvas, and he made constructions and wooden reliefs. Focusing on colour and composition, his painting often plays with flat two-dimensional perspective. During 1967 Jeff lived at the Monastery St Elias, Devon, and studied iconography and made a series of large icons. Figurative elements appear in a series of portraits of place that harkened his Yorkshire childhood- elements of pattern and abstraction, colour and symbolism and his time in Cornwall. Harris has experimented and worked with a range of printmaking – screen printing, etching, wood cuts, monoprints and linocuts.
From 1966 to 1969 he taught painting and drawing at Falmouth Art School. Looking for adventure and support for a growing family, he emigrated to Australia in 1970 with Gwen and four children, as a ‘Ten Pound Pom’. He taught at the Tasmanian School of Art and later the South Australian School of Art. He continued to paint and hold exhibitions in Sydney, Tasmania and South Australia and retired early from teaching to focus on his own work. Jeff paints most days in a studio at the end of his garden and visits St Ives when he can.
Harris’s work is held in collections including the UK Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, Cornwall County Council UK, Whitworth Art Collection, Manchester University, Alston Hall, UK Education Department, Lancashire, Artbank, Australia, New Norcia Monastery, Westerns Australia and in private collections in Australia, UK and USA.